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Photosynthesis, We Really Need This!

Youth in Arts is so excited to release our album of songs from Photosynthesis, The Musical!

The songs are all available for free download on the Bandcamp website.  Inspired by Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm, the songs were  written and composed by Youth in Arts staff and Mentor Artist Miguel Martinez to accompany our theater show Photosynthesis, The Musical.  In this tale of a Magical journey, students and their science teacher Ms. Frizzle travel to a world where they can experience and understand the processes and importance of photosynthesis; transforming their skepticism and boredom into understanding and enthusiasm!

Join us in celebrating the magic of photosynthesis with these fun songs.  Miguel Martinez, Nydia Gonzalez, together with a talented group of singers and musicians, sing songs that teach us about how plants make energy, sugar, fiber and how the sun keeps life circling ’round.  Help to bring science alive and sing along with us!

Thanks to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for making this recording possible and accessible to all!

If you are interested in learning more about how Youth in Arts can bring the magic of photosynthesis to your school with arts, contact us at

New Residencies and Shows for Kids

Check out a few of our newest program offerings–available to book for your school or community site now!


An image is worth…

Visual Storytelling with Sophie Cooper (Artist Residency)

Twenty-first century art skills are on tap as students learn how media producers communicate through images, while also becoming creators of their own visual stories. Students de-code familiar visual media and develop a vocabulary for visual communication, and then create their own work on the theme of personal and cultural identity using found images. Looking to help students make more substantive use of your computer lab? This residency with Mentor Artist Sophie Cooper could be for you.

Science Magic!

Science Magic!

The Amazing Science Whiz Show (Assembly Performance)

Benny Bendini’s Magic Circus explores explores laws of physics, earth science, green environmental education and color perception. Students discover curious and amazing scientific phenomena from air pressure and centrifugal force to color perception and optical illusions, plus learn about famous scientists like Archimedes, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Guaranteed to be a fun-filled learning experience with plenty of enthusiastic audience participation.



The Alphabet Rockers

The Alphabet Rockers (Assembly Performances)

In two new shows, the Alphabet Rockers engage young audiences with contemporary choreography, catchy melodies and beatboxing. Performances are age appropriate and aligned to Common Core Standards in math, literacy, and science.

The New Kid in School

This bullying prevention “hip hop theater” assembly explores how teasing and being left out makes people feel, and how friends can stand up for themselves and each other.

Eat the Rainbow

Alphabet Rockers mix fun with food in their hip hop music and theater show about nutrition. Students brainstorm food choices to help the Alphabet Rockers stay strong and in rockstar shape!

Looking for something else? Check out all our program offerings here and use the checkbox filters on the left of the page to find just the program you want.

5th Grade Science Cards: A Cumulative Reflection

by YIA Mentor Artist Katy Bernheim

What would be a fun, creative way to reflect on topics covered throughout the year in Science class?  This May in the 5th grade at Hall Middle School, the Science teacher, Ted Stoeckley, the students, and I put together greeting cards using a variety of techniques to summarize and reflect on the ideas and concepts of 5th grade science.

IMG_3164_2We started with printmaking.  This would be the image for the front of the card.  Before I came to the class, the students had drawn 4 thumbnail sketches depicting their favorite Science topic, experiment or concept.  There were clouds, the water cycle, bottle rockets, crystals, pendulums.  We talked about block printing and the scratch foam we would be using as a printing plate, and what kinds of images would work best for that medium.  The students then transferred their drawings to the foam.

Next we explored some simple pop-up paper engineering techniques.  We cut first- and second-generation folds into cardstock to make stairsteps; we cut second folds into first generation folds to create an in-and-out look.  The students helped each other trouble shoot what they did to get a result they didn’t expect.  Why wasn’t it popping out?  Why didn’t it stair step?  The kids kept these cards as a warm up to their final piece.

Next we printed our foam plates.  Listening for the just the right sound that told us we had enough, but not too much, ink on the brayer, the students inked up their plates and printed images on four pieces of paper.  They had four colors to choose from, in any combination.  Everyone had at least one good print to choose from for the cover of their card.

During our last meeting we put it all together.  The students chose their favorite image, and chose one of four colors of card stock.  Building on the structures they had learned previously, the kids made a new card with added shapes, extensions and drawings to illustrate the concept they had chosen.  They finished off the cards with some research and text to explain their idea in more detail.


Mary Silveira, Weeks 12-15

Mentor Artist Gabrielle Gamboa provided this update on our art and science integration program at Mary Silveira school. Artwork from this program was featured in December-January at YIA Gallery as part of our “Imaginary Voyages” exhibit.

After creative warm-up exercises, such as “Connect-The-Dot Creatures” and “Mandala Making”, Mary Silveira 5th graders have been adding to their “Imaginary Island” exploration journals. We learned some techniques for drawing and shading in one-point and two-point linear perspective to illustrate island locations, as part of a continuing adventure story that each student is creating.

And since one session happened to take place on Valentines Day, we took a break to make mixed-media greeting cards and gifts!

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6th grade Earth Science collaboration: A Pop-Up Book Exploring Plate Tectonics

Sixth grade scientists at Hall Middle School explored paper engineering and pop-up techniques to create a pop-up book illustrating the movement and concept of plate tectonics.

Two years ago, Mentor Artist Katy Bernheim collaborated with science teacher Ted Stoeckley to design a way to teach students about plate tectonics using paper engineering and pop-up techniques.  They decided to focus on the layers of the earth, subduction, strike/slip faults, and the movement of Pangaea, with an optional sea floor spreading.  After much trial and error, Katy was able to develop a model that the students would work from.

Because of time constraints and the challenges of accurately illustrating the movement of the earth’s plates, they designed the project as a model for the students to work towards, with step-by-step instructions.

Students began with paper exploration, playing with different first- and second-generation pop-up techniques.  They learned folding and creasing, and clarified how to use a ruler as a measuring devise as well as a straight edge.  They made stair steps, and frogs, and thrones, and repeating patterns out of brightly colored card stock.  The kids experimented, adding cuts and folds, and even adding their pop-ups together to make more elaborate patterns and structures.

The pages in the books began as legal-sized file folders cut in half.  Students started with the subduction of the South American Plate by the Nasca Plate.  First, they cut a long rectangular first-generation pop-up, and added a second-generation pop-up on one end.  This would be the foundation for the plates to ride on.  Next they cut strips to extend the pop-up foundation.  Finally, they cut out photocopies of the South American Plate and the Nasca Plate.  Students placed and glued the Nasca Plate first, then folded in (or un-popped) the page to position the South American Plate.  Because of the difference in height and length of the two strips, when the book is opened, it looks as if the smaller Nasca Plate is moving under the South American Plate (to create the Andes Mountains!).  There were lots of oohs and ahhhs as the students opened and closed their pages.  It was challenging for many kids, due to the precise nature of the instruction, with measuring and cutting along the lines, but when they got it, they were ecstatic.

Next, the class tackled the break up and movement of one large continent, Pangaea, into several of the continents we know today.  The students had a photocopy of South America, Africa, Australia, Antarctica and the Indian Subcontinent that included illustrations of the fossil record that had helped prove the theory of plate tectonics.  They cut out each continent, and arranged them to form the original super continent, like putting together a puzzle.  Next they cut out and folded a first-generation strip in a new page of the book.  They glued South America to the popped-up rectangle, folded it in, and positioned Africa right next to the “un-popped” South America.  When students opened their books, South American moved left, away from Africa.  Next they prepped three supporting strips for the remaining continents.  Placing these continents in their completed-puzzle format next to Africa, they folded, positioned and glued the strips so that each continent could be pulled with a pull tab away from Africa, in the direction the continents ultimately landed.

On the facing page, students used California to illustrate a strike/slip fault.  They cut out the state, and cut off the section of California that is part of the Pacific Plate, along the San Andreas Fault.  They cut out bendable legs for each “plate,” attached pull tabs, and made sure the legs were glued in such a way as to move the sections in the correct direction: the Pacific Plate slice moving northwest, i.e. to the upper left of the page, and the North American Plate section moving southeast, or to the lower right.

Finally, students created a flip tab to show the layers of the earth.  They cut out a circle filled with concentric circles illustrating the earth’s layers.  They folded this in half, and glued one half to a third page in the book.  Next they cut out a round drawing of the earth, added a “fold” tab, folded that all in half, and glued it half of it to the layers, and half to the book page, making a page-within-the-page.

For students who finished early, Katy offered a model of sea floor spreading for them to experiment with for an extra page in their books.

The students added text to explain the theory of Plate Tectonics to their pop-up illustrations (from Science class and as homework).  They glued the pages back-to-back, and created a cover.  The kids put a huge amount of work into their books.  In the end they had a product they were proud of, and they had learned and internalized the concepts of Plate Tectonics more deeply than had they only read about it.  In practicing the paper engineering techniques, they now have skills to take to other art, science, or writing projects in the future.